The Short and The Long of It

Some days are just downright hard, aren’t they? The week we went into lockdown for the second time, I had to say goodbye to Jonte, my beautiful Dachshund. He was 12 years old, and he broke my heart that day… I’ve learnt many life lessons from him over the years. Let’s wind back the clock to a week earlier:

Jonte and I were sitting outside, enjoying the glorious winter sunshine.  I was absolutely mesmerized by the activity on the other side of my chain mesh fence. You see, I’ve recently acquired new neighbours. I sat up and quietly observed as one tossed its head in the air and commenced circling the paddock. This exquisite creature, so big and yet so light on its feet, carefully placed each hoof with exacting precision. It was a breath-taking scene to behold! Jonte, who had been lying on the ground beside me also sat up. At a glance, it appeared he too was enjoying this Equine Extravaganza. We watched the horse for minutes when I had a sudden thought: perhaps it was not as it seemed. You see, Jonte was a sized “short-long” kind of a dog, and it occurred to me that just maybe he couldn’t see what I could see because he was, shall we say, vertically challenged. So, to be sure, I got down on the ground and assumed the same vantage point as he, and to my surprise, there was not a horse in sight. All that we could see were the marshmallow weeds that have been steadily growing upwards. So, what had made him sit up and take notice? Perhaps the whinnying of the horse or the vibration on the ground.  Perhaps my interest kindled his, I guess I’ll never know. But it dawned on me again at that moment that we can never assume that we completely understand what someone else’s perspective is: what they see, what they think, how they feel or what they might do next.

Have you ever been misjudged? I certainly have been. Have you ever been the one misjudging a person or a situation? I’m ashamed to say that I’ve also been on that end of the stick way too many times. It is not for us to judge as we have no idea when someone might be on the edge of a critical turning point in their lives.

If you have a few moments, you might like to look up the story of the ‘short-long’ man, we read about in Luke 19:1-9. This man was short in stature and had a long and checkered history. I speak of Zacchaeus, the ‘Chief Tax Collector’. By his own admission, we learn that he was corrupt; he had acquired much wealth at the expense of others. He was not a very popular man it would seem, especially in the eyes of those watching on that day, who labelled him a “sinner”. If we were to wind back the clock on this story too, I wonder what the events were that led up to his interaction with Jesus that day?  What made Zacchaeus decide at that moment that he needed to see Jesus up close?  What had happened to kindle his interest, to the point that he climbed a tree in order to gain a better vantage point? Did he think for one moment that Jesus would even notice him, let alone speak to him or invite Himself over for a meal?  I think not. Though we are not privy to the conversations that took place in his home, we do know the outcome: Zacchaeus pledged to set things straight; to repay those he’d cheated, four times more than he had swindled them and he also promised to give half of his wealth to the poor. What an incredible change of heart and a miraculous turnaround. Here again, we see that every encounter with Jesus holds an opportunity for a response.

I’ve been a little curious about this story. Had there been someone praying in earnest for Zacchaeus? Was the outcome that day the culmination of many tears, heartfelt prayers and an on-going journey of faith and hope that Zacchaeus might one day find salvation? And I’ve wondered too, about those we are praying for. Do we ever feel so discouraged, and ready to give up hope of seeing the miracle, when nothing ever seems to change? James 5:16 says “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”  Only righteous because of what Jesus has done in us and for us, we can be very sure that our prayers do make a difference. God hears us, and in His time and in His way may just answer our prayers in ways that will astound us!

PRAYER:  Father, please give me a heart like Yours and a desire to see beyond what is seen. Help me to judge less and love more. Keep me faithful in prayer. Show me what it looks like to forgive, just as you have forgiven me, and use me to build pathways that will lead others into Your kingdom of light. Amen.

Song: The Bridge, by Casting Crowns –

(Written by Rose Jeffrey)